111419 WES WPD Coffee with a Cop 984.JPG

Westerly Police Sgt. Paul Gingerella, left, and Police Chief Shawn Lacey sport beards as part of No-Shave November during a "Coffee with a Cop" event at the Westerly McDonald's on Nov. 13. Officers will continue the fundraising effort, "Double Down December," this month. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — An effort in November to put down the razor for a good cause helped Westerly police raise more than $1,300 for area children. Now many in the department have committed to remaining bearded for another month in hopes of "doubling down" on donations.

The Westerly police union, Local 503 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, has announced that members of the department will take part in "Double Down December," an extension of the No-Shave November effort that the union has used in recent years to raise money for the St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the Nick Vuono Scholarship Fund, which provides college scholarships to Westerly High School seniors.

Westerly Patrolman Anthony Alicchio, president of Local 503, said the officers had approached Police Chief Shawn Lacey with the idea "because we felt it was a win-win for the officers and community, and he was on board with it."

"We are in a career where it is not typically within protocol to allow for beards, but there are many guys here who enjoy sporting facial hair," he said. "This was a chance for us to boost morale while helping out children and families at the same time."

No-Shave November has taken off nationwide in the past three years. According to the Matthew Hill Foundation's no-shave.org website, "the goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free."

About 30 members of the department and police union took part in the fundraising effort. Participants paid $30 each and helped raise additional funds.

Alicchio said the money will be split down the middle between St. Jude's and the scholarship fund, and any additional donations will go toward the same two causes.

"Double Down December" is a challenge to the local's members to pay in a second time to keep their beards. Even those who chose not to take part showed support for the effort. Aliccho joked that while he is continuing to support the cause, he "caved and shaved," but noted that the chief is continuing.

"You know, I hate to admit it but the chief looks good with a beard," Alicchio said.

Lacey said last month that while he supports the effort, there needs to be a balance between maintaining policies that promote professionalism and the causes the union supports. When it came to saying no, however, he admitted that it was impossible to turn down a program that supports the kids, especially during the holiday season. It's the first time in over 25 years that he has grown a beard.

For more information on the Westerly police union's fundraising effort, visit the local's Facebook page at facebook.com/westerlypoliceunion. People interested in donating may do so by calling Sgt. Paul Gingerella at 401-348-6165 or Officer Anthony Alicchio at 401-348-6146.

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